We had the great opportunity to interview the designer of Demure Amsterdam, and haute-couture hat brand.
- How did you start working in the hat business?
Since I was very young, I loved to make things by hand, especially with fabric. I have been surrounded by lots of fabrics since my grandmother and her family owned a Kimono fabric business. There was a lot to play with and I enjoyed it. I wanted to learn to sew professionally, but unfortunately that did not happen until much later. As I am from Japan, doing well in school was always the priority. In the Japanese culture, the expectations your parents have for you to go to the best university and get the best job is very high.
I didn’t start working with hats until I had been living in London for a while and that is where I met my teacher, Prudence. She had been making hats for Vivienne Westwood since 1991. When I met her, she was also running hat making workshops. I found her thanks to an add she had put in the Japanese community paper for Japanese expatriates who were living in London. I decided to contact her and then started studying with her twice a week during the evenings and sometimes the weekends as I had a full-time job. After a few years, I decided to quit my job and I started working with her. Due to my husband’s job, we moved to Amsterdam. For the first ten years, I was making hats at home for private orders such as brides and their bridesmaids. I kept it very small but my family and friends encouraged me to start an atelier-shop which I did in September 2016.
- What did you do before opening this business?
My parents never thought making hats was a real job so I attended the best university and studied finance. That is also why it took me so long to get started. I didn’t have the same knowledge and background as students that attended arts and fashion universities. However, my teacher taught me in a very professional way.
- What do you like most about making hats?
What I like the most about making hats is that hats are very close to your face. Wearing a hat is the same as getting a good haircut, it affects your facial features. I enjoy the fact that I work with the customers one on one. We decide together the fabric, shape and design to have the perfect result. One millimetre can change everything; precision is very important. I also love the surprise on people’s faces when they put on their hat for the first time and realise it suits them. Hats bring out confidence in people.
- Do you have any collaborations with other brands?
Not at the moment, but I would love for it to happen in the near future.
- How long does it take to make one hat?
A simple felt hat takes about 15-20 hours. However, I made a hat with feathers and beads which took me 120. It all depends on the fabric and the design. I work 8-10 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- What is the price range?
The soft fabric hats are the cheapest ones which sell between 150 and 195 Euros. Straw hats range between 250-350 Euros. The special hats all depend on how long they take me to make, but as my brand is high-end the price can go quite high.
- Do you think hats are coming back in trend?
I am always surrounded by hats, so as far as I’m concerned, hats are always in. However, I feel that nowadays hats are very geometrical. I have many moulds that I buy from a hat blocker in London and what I love is that they always take into consideration the natural shape of the human head. For the current trend, I see a lot of simple round flat hats. I always have to keep in mind while creating hats, that the most important thing is for the hat to be comfortable.
- Where do you find your inspiration?
My first inspiration is always looking at the client. I take one look at them and know exactly what will suit them. Secondly is the fabric and colour. I know what type of hat I want to do with a certain fabric.
- Do you wear hats on a daily basis?
That is one of the most frequently asked questions, but I actually don’t. I have the eye to see how different hats suit different types of people, however, I can never do it on myself.
- How do you see the future of your shop?
I am very passionate about hats and especially about the “couture” way of making them by hand. I think it is very important to get to a luxurious look. Working with stylists and magazines within the fashion industry gives me fresh inspiration. I wish to continue creating these unique hats as there is no point in making mass production hats. I consider my brand as high-end and that is what my clientele appreciates. I will just keep on going and hope that more people realise that made by hand is much more special.